About 10 years ago I became interested in handmade artist books and I bought Structure of the Visual Book by Keith A. Smith. I see on his web site that this book has been expanded. But many of the things he says in this book explain why I love and collect photography books.
The book, as object, is intimate, it insists on a one-to-one confrontation.....
A book can be seen anywhere, at any time, in any situation and be returned to time and again.
Since it is bound, the order of viewing is maintained.
If a book is mass-produced, it can reach a greater audience than an exhibit.
In addition to collecting photography books, I also collect photography. Some of the images are on the walls but not all can be displayed. They get put into archival storage boxes and put away. I seldom ever go through the boxes and when I do, I usually only have one print from an exhibition or from an artist so I can't study and compare. While I agree that the reproductions in some photography books isn't up to the standards of the photographer's prints, with a book I still have a collection of 30 to 50 prints that are as easy to access as my bookshelf. I can take one with me to bed, or drop it in my bag to enjoy while on an airplane.
On Alec Soth's blog he had an entry about the printed page and some of the people who commented said that now instead of buying photography books, they could go on the internet to see images so the book was no longer relevant for them. Maybe it is my age, but I can't image how seeing the image on the monitor is the same as holding it in my hands or looking at images curled up in a comfy chair by the fireplace.
At the prices of photographic images these days I can purchase very few pieces but in a sense, when I own the book, I own the images. Looking at images on a computer monitor is just a fleeting vision. I like the feeling of possession. I just wish I had all my stored photography books with me in Mexico but not to worry, I'm still collecting so maybe before too long my new bookshelves in San Miguel will be full of photograph books too.